Jim Bancroft, former South Stormont mayor, passes away

South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft, shown at an Oct. 17, 2016, SDG Council meeting celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Counties road system. Council verified Bancroft as the incoming 2017 SDG Warden at that session; he was officially inaugurated as warden yesterday, Dec. 16. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

INGLESIDE — Former South Stormont Mayor and SDG Warden Jim Bancroft died this month at the age of 75, passing away Dec. 1 at his Ingleside residence.

Bancroft last served as mayor of this rural township next door to Cornwall during the last municipal term — a period in which the Ingleside resident threw all of his political weight behind a public campaign against the closure of Rothwell-Osnabruck High School by the Upper Canada District School Board. Though the push to preserve that local school ultimately failed, the prospect of its demise “appalled” Bancroft, who in 2016 predicted his municipality would suffer a “devastating blow” should the Board proceed with the plan. It was an eventful issue that Bancroft found on his plate after coming out of two terms of political retirement to take on — and defeat — then-incumbent Mayor Bryan McGillis (who returned to the position when Bancroft opted not to run in 2018.)

“Jim will always be remembered for his integrity, leadership and passion for our community. Deepest condolences to his family and friends,” said another vocal critic of the school closure, Jennifer MacIsaac, now a member of township council, in a Facebook post.

Below, then-Mayor Jim Bancroft addresses a rally of the Save South Stormont School campaign in 2017.

South Stormont flew flags on municipal buildings at half mast in memory of the deceased. The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry did the same at its administrative building on Pitt Street in Cornwall.

“Council and Staff are saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Bancroft, former Councillor, Reeve / Mayor,” the township said in a Facebook statement reflecting on the deceased and years of service extending back before amalgamation. (Bancroft succeeded the first head of South Stormont Council — Jim Brownell, who still went by the old title of ‘Reeve.’)

“Mayor Bancroft dedicated many years to the service of his community as a member of Council of the former Township of Osnabruck and the Township of South Stormont. Jim served on numerous committees and community groups in support of the residents of the municipality… Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim’s family during this difficult time,” the local municipality also said.

The deceased had two turns as warden — in 1997 and 2017 — of the upper-tier United Counties government, which also issued condolences in a Facebook post. “Jim will be remembered as a gentleman who advocated for residents of the former Osnabruck Township, as well as the Township of South Stormont.”

Former South Stormont deputy mayor Tammy Hart also remembered serving alongside the “hard-working mayor,” saying he was “dedicated to his job and his constituents.”

“He got along well with all of staff and council,” Hart wrote in an email.  “Jim was reeve of then-Osnabruck Township prior to SD&G amalgamation in 1998. Prior to that he was deputy mayor and worked alongside my father-in-law, Stewart Hart.  So there was lots of experience he brought to the table.

“Jim was kind and thoughtful. He had a passion for his community and was very involved.  He loved his family and often spoke highly of his beautiful wife Amy, a retired police officer.

“Jim knew everyone; in 1987-88 he was president of the Stormont County Fair. He was a well-liked, well-rounded politician who will be sorely missed by all.”

A 2008 inductee into South Stormont’s Sports Hall of Fame, Bancroft coached both broomball and basketball and “loved curling,” she said. “And every year you would see Jim on a tractor ploughing for his best friend Brian Rombough; as Jim came from a farm himself.”

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